“Your Plans & God's Plans”

Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:3

While the Bible speaks of the meat and the milk of the word (Heb. 5:11-14), the proverbs are like the hard candy of the word. Biting right into them or swallowing them too quickly risks injury. You have to savor them, meditate on them, take them in slowly one at a time.

This proverb surprised me. I expect it to say, “Commit your plans to the Lord and your work will be established.” This is certainly true. When we submit our plans and thinking to the Lord’s revealed will, the things we do will bear fruit (“will be established”). But the verse flips this idea. If we commit what we do (our “works”) to the Lord then our “plans will be established.” That is, if we want our plans to succeed then it requires committing everything we do to the Lord.

The word translated “commit” means literally “to roll” as in rolling all one’s weight on a support. This same figure is found in Psalm 22:8; 37:5; and 55:22 to describe one who completely trusts the Lord and unreservedly commits everything to him. Such a person who relies on God to bear him up and humbly commits his work to him will be blessed with the ability to make wise plans.

What is the practical value of this verse? Making plans is generally a good idea. God gives us freewill to make those plans.“The plans of the heart belong to man” (Prov. 16:1a). When we are careful and diligent in our planning instead of impulsive, things tend to work out better: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Prov. 21:5). There is usually a very clear cause and effect relationship between our plans (or lack thereof) and the outcome.

However, life is not always so simple. “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” (Prov. 16:1) Again, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9). There is a contrast here between the plans we make in our own heart and God’s control of the outcome.

We are free to make plans and our choices will impact our life for better or worse (Prov. 21:5). But God also has plans that may override ours (Prov. 16:1, 9). On the one hand, our choices matter and we are responsible for them. On the other, what actually happens as a result of our plans, whether our “answer” (Prov. 16:1) or our “steps” (Prov. 16:9), are in God’s hands (Psa. 31:15).

We must hold the truths of human freewill and divine sovereignty together. This protects us from falling into the fatalistic thinking of the stoics who believed in a merciless system of blind fate. Instead of struggling against it, they simply accepted things with a spirit of resignation; “que sera sera” (whatever will be will be). It also protects us from falling into the hedonistic tendencies of the epicureans who believed the gods had totally given up on them and that they were on their own to determine their destiny; “carpe diem” (seize the day), “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”

Instead, Scripture teaches that we will be held accountable for our choices therefore we have every incentive to live wisely. But because God is in control we can rest in knowing that he will accomplish his good purposes in the end. Even human evil cannot frustrate God’s plans (Prov. 16:4-5; cf. Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23).

It is proper to make plans but how do we become people who make wise plans, the right kind of plans, plans that “will be established”? Only by committing our “work to the Lord.” When we totally commit our work to him, that is, the minutiae of day-to-day living, the plans we make will then align with his. In all things, let us seek God’s will (Mt. 26:39) and God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).